A hip-hop dance battle wasn’t on my list of places to go or things to do in Paris. But after watching my first live hip-hop dance performance, I can say that I don’t regret it one bit. As a dancer myself, I admire watching dance performances because I’ve been in their footsteps. However, the dance I do, which is called raas, a classical Indian dance where we spin dandiya sticks, is drastically different from hip-hop. Or so I thought…
The hip-hop battle, called Onze Bouge, which translates to 11 moves, took place at Place Léon Blum on a Saturday night. When we got there, the dance battles already started, and we squeezed into the crowd to watch. Right next to the speakers, I felt my heart pounding but watching the dancers reminded me of when I was on stage, dancing in front of hundreds. However, even with the stress of competing in front of others, I always thought of dancing as a stress reliever. Interestingly, there has been research conducted on the role of dance reducing some types of stress. In one study, researchers looked at how dance or movement training (DMT) in older adults influenced their cortisol, a well-known stress hormone. They found that the DMT group compared to the control group, the adults that didn’t do any DMT, had lower cortisol post training. (Vrinceanu et al 2019)
Another similar study had the same group, DMT, but the researchers studied the effect of dance and movement on declining cognitive abilities and depressive symptoms. The sample of older adults was randomly organized into DMT, exercise, or control groups. The main findings were that DMT significantly decreased depression, loneliness, and negative mood while improving daily functioning and cortisol levels. These findings suggest that dance can be a therapy for older adults to improve daily functioning in aspects where depression and stress might impact them. (Ho et al. 2018) I, for one, know that I definitely feel my mood lighten and my stress levels subside after dance practice.
Dancers’ brains were also active when watching other dance performances more than non-dancers’ brains. A study states that dancers’ brains did differ in function and structure, but only in areas where the dancers’ used their brains more. Their results showed that dancers themselves had activated an area of the brain called an action observation network (AON) more than non-dancers when viewing dance. The AON is a network of brain regions that are involved in motor and sensory skills. (Burzynska et al 2017)
Other than the connection between the brain and dance, another fascinating characteristic I noticed that overlapped between the battle and my experience with raas competitions was the judging. Some of the stress, or at least the stress I experience, comes from this aspect of competing. However, I tend to notice that the judges tend to usually pick the teams with the most elaborate steps or at least the steps that look externally impressive, which intuitively makes sense. And there’s science behind it to prove this. A study looked at hip hop dance and how expert vs. non-expert dancers’ range of motion influenced the judges’ scores. The researchers found that the range of motion of the dancer’s body was highly correlated to a higher judging score, stating that scores are usually based on outwardly appealing elements. The (Sato et al. 2016)
Based on all these research studies on dance’s impact on people’s bodies, brains, and how it influences the judges, I was surprised to find that dance has been a popular topic in a lot of science research! As a dancer and someone who loves watching dance performances, I was intrigued by all the science on how dancing impacts your brain and body. France is a center for all things artistic from dance to paintings to architecture. Getting to watch dance in Paris was unexpected but rewarding because I got to experience a taste of hip-hop in France. However, I learned that, for me, dance is universal, and whether it’s in Paris or Atlanta, dance has its appeal all around the world.
Vrinceanu T, Esmail A, Berryman N, Predovan D, Vu TTM, Villalpando JM, Pruessner JC, Bherer L. (2019) Dance your stress away: comparing the effect of dance/movement training to aerobic exercise training on the cortisol awakening response in healthy older adults. Stress. :1-9.
Ho RTH, Fong TCT, Chan WC, Kwan JSK, Chiu PKC, Yau JCY, Lam LCW. (2018) Psychophysiological effects of Dance Movement Therapy and physical exercise on older adults with mild dementia: A randomized controlled trial. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci.
Sato N, Nunome H, Ikegami Y. (2016) Key motion characteristics of side-step movements in hip-hop dance and their effect on the evaluation by judges. Sports Biomech. 15(2):116-27.
Burzynska, A. Z., Finc, K., Taylor, B. K., Knecht, A. M., & Kramer, A. F. (2017). The Dancing Brain: Structural and Functional Signatures of Expert Dance Training. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11, 566. (2nd image from figure within article)
Watson, Galadriel. “Dancing Hones Your Body, But What Does It Do to Your Brain?” Dance Magazine, Dance Magazine, 30 Jan. 2018, www.dancemagazine.com/dancers-brains-2523641417.html.
First and last images were taken by me